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lammas loaves

Lughnasadh (pronounced LOO-nə-sə) is a Gaelic festival marking the beginning of the harvest season. It was once observed throughout Ireland, Scotland and the Isle of Man on the first day of August. That was about halfway between the summer solstice and autumn equinox, and is one of the four Gaelic seasonal festivals, along with Samhain, Imbolc and Beltane, that are also referred to as cross-quarter days.

Lughnasadh was the wedding of the Sun god Lugh to the Earth goddess, causing the ripening of crops.

Over time the celebrations have shifted to the Sunday nearest this date, so today might be the time to bring a new wheat loaf of bread to church.

It corresponds to other European harvest festivals such as the Welsh Gŵyl Awst and the English Lammas.


The three-faced god identified as Lugh/Lugus

The church transformed Lughnasadh into an offering from the first fruits of the land. The first loaves baked from the new wheat were offered at the Loaf Mass, which became corrupted in pronunciation to Lammas.

Lammas Day (Anglo-Saxon hlaf-mas, “loaf-mass”) is celebrated in some English-speaking countries in the Northern Hemisphere, but may occur between August 1 and September 1. It is a festival to mark the annual wheat harvest which began at Lammastide. The loaf was blessed, and in Anglo-Saxon England it might even be used to work some magic. In the book of Anglo-Saxon charms, you are directed to break the lammas bread into four and place them at the four corners of the barn, to protect the harvested grain.


A Rose Moon

This month’s full Moon is on Monday, July 26.

deer-velvetIt’s most commonly referred to in America as the Buck Moon, a name that comes from Native Americans. Male deer, which shed their antlers every year, begin to regrow them in July. This is normally the month when the new antlers of buck deer push out of their foreheads in coatings of velvety fur.

Other names for this Summer Moon include signs of what early settlers saw in nature: the Raspberry Moon, Hay Moon (harvesting could be done in the light of a cooler night sometimes), Thunder Moon, Whale Moon, the Rose Moon (for its color, not for the flower) and Red Salmon Time Moon.

It’s important to remember that in many other cultures the Lunar month is the time between the full moons and not the calendar months that we are familiar with today.

A lantern-lit Japanese street

In the Chinese Moon calendar this is the Hungry Ghost Moon. On the 14th day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, the Gates of Hell open, and ghosts pour forth from the Nine Darknesses into the sunlit world. To placate the dead, Hell Money (fake paper money) is burned, offerings are made, and paper boats and floating lanterns are set out to give direction to wayward spirits. Though many spirits simply seek out the comforts of their former homes and the company of their loved ones, angry spirits also roam the streets, seeking revenge on those who have wronged them. Offerings of ginger candy, sugar cane, smoky vanilla and rice wine might appease the ghosts who give off their own scent of white sandalwood, ho wood, ti, white grapefruit, crystalline musk and aloe.

In Japan, this month brings O-Bon, the 3-day Festival of Lanterns. This Buddhist and Shinto celebration honors the dead, and homes, altars, shrines and tombs are cleaned and decorated. Gardens are hung with lanterns to light the way of the dead so that they can join their families for the festival.

The Cherokee called this the Ripe Corn Moon, while American colonists called it the Corn Tassel Moon,  so we can see the stage that corn was in for Northeastern settlers versus Southwestern Cherokee.  The Choctaw called it the Crane Moon and the Dakotah Sioux referred to it as the Moon of the Middle Summer.

The Celtic name Culendom (cu’ lin dum) is the eleventh month and the first day of the month is the full moon when the Druids celebrated Harvest or Lughnasadh. Culendom is from the July Harvest Moon to the August Moon of Claiming.

A 16th Century Medieval English name was the Mead Moon. Mead is an ancient alcoholic beverage made from honey. Since this is a month when hives are heavy with honey, it was a time to make mead.

Want to make some mead of your own? Try the site.

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